In 2015, Billy Crystal and Josh Gad co-starred in The Comedians, a mockumentary series following the collaboration of two mismatched actors in a TV sketch comedy show and their love/hate relationship off-camera.
Like a cross between Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Larry Sanders Show and Extras, The Comedians is instantly derivative in that it's your typical improv-heavy behind-the-scenes type of show where you see the two leads clash and deal with various awkward situations then talk to the camera about it. This is intercut with silly sketches from the show being portrayed in the series. Crystal and Gad may not be the obvious choice for a team, which might explain the low ratings, yet they quickly prove that they are a worthy comedy duo and the show is surprisingly effective. It's refreshing to see Billy Crystal enjoying himself playing a purposely more flawed character and Gad adds another level to his usual schtick by showing a lot of improvisational talent, great timing and solid acting chops.
The Comedians sees Crystal pitch a project to the network which would involve him playing literally every role in a sketch comedy but when he is told that it would be overkill, they suggest Josh Gad as a co-star. Their styles being radically different, this leads to various disagreements and the show's director Larry Charles (who also directs most the season's episodes) is fired on the first day. The best parts come when Crystal and Gad step on each others' toes as it's a lot of fun to see these guys bicker and have a sense of humour about themselves. They are portrayed as being pretty selfish throughout but the show never lets them become dislikable and, in fact, several episodes include some genuinely sweet moments like "Billy's Birthday" or "Partners", the finale.
The goofy nature of the sketch show's material contrasts really well with the more subtle behind-the-scenes antics and it's great to see both Crystal and Gad in an edgier, more modern type of show. It's just a shame that there isn't something more unique about it. The excellent leads and supporting cast, Stephnie Weir is particularly good as the off-beat producer, make The Comedians a really funny show from start to finish and it's a pity that it wasn't renewed because this was a series with some great set-ups, sharp writing and a winning relationship at its heart. The problem with FX is that it almost has too many good comedy shows going on with the likes of Louie and Archer always doing well so some are going to inevitably get left behind.
It may not have received the success it aimed for and it was probably too derivative for its own good but The Comedians deserved better. This is a really enjoyable, at times hilarious little show with plenty of potential and two talented leads who are always fun to watch at its helm. If you like the shows it resembles then you'll no doubt have a great time with this underrated gem.